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Norwegian Christmas at Vesterheim

Recently I visited Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum in Decorah, IA for the Norwegian Christmas celebration. Believe it or not, even though I am from Decorah, this was the first time I have attended this event. The day was packed with activities, demonstration, food, music, and crafts. I initially thought that an hour would have been enough time to check everything out. I was wrong. I easily spent three hours here connecting with the demonstrators, working on the crafts and exploring the museum. That didn't include shopping time at the store either!

One of the first things I did when I entered was make a paper woven heart basket with volunteer Mette Hammer. I have made some of these before, but Mette was fully loaded with supplies and templates to make baskets of varying difficulty. I tested myself with a basket showcasing a tree in the center. It took me a few times to get it correct. I hope to feature this design on a blog post soon.

Another fun element of the event was the appearance of the julenisse (Christmas elf). Young and old join hands and sing Christmas songs together and dance around the Christmas tree in preparation for him to appear. The volunteers also spoke about the different traditions that take place in Norway while they get ready for the holiday such as how the tree would be decorated by the prints and kept hidden from the children until after the Christmas Eve meal.

When the songs are sung and preparation done, the kids were able to call the julenisse by saying "come nisse, come!" The julenisse then appeared and taught them another song while they again held hands and did a dance around the tree. Once done with the song, the julenisse handed out a present to each child.

As mentioned earlier, there were demonstrations as well. Pictured here are Bev Schrandt and Barb Hagelie showcasing wheat weaving. Together they made and sold wheat weavings and ornaments such as the one pictured below. That one was my favorite! I would have bought the little Santa, but I didn't have check or cash. Good thing to note if you plan to come next year, don't bring a credit card if you would like to purchase items straight from the demonstrators.

Another really neat element of the event was all of the Christmas trees decorated throughout the museum. Each one had a theme with ornaments donated by local artists.

Here is the woodcarving tree. It was full of nisse, spoons, dala horses and more.

There was also a needlework tree. This one may have been my favorite considering all the different ways artists had conveyed their skills.

There was also a rosemaling tree. I grew up having the data horses on our tree. My mom had purchased one for each of us as kids. I still have them on my tree today.

The julebukker made their rounds throughout the day scaring away evil spirits with their noise and costumes.

There were so many more fun parts of the event that I didn't capture with my camera. One could spend the entire day there because the Vesterheim staff does a great job organizing the day with different activities beginning and ending at different times. Some of the other things are the special exhibits Spoons: Carving. Community, Rocks and Hard Places: Emigration through the Lens of Knud Knudsen, and, Koselig. A fire with drinks outside to stay warm in the cool weather, ornament making, spoon carving, coloring activity, a movie presented by the Oneota Film Festival called the Christmas Star, a pop up cafe with varme pøkse, lefse and other desserts, spoon carving demonstrations by Kim Block, Harley Refsal and Ellen Macdonald, rosemaling by Ruth Green and music by Decorah area musicians such as the Luran Singers Society are all part of the day too!

I wish I would have been going for years. It was certainly worth my time and I will be attending future years as well. Next year I plan to bring my hubby, nieces and nephews so everyone can enjoy the event.

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A Norwegian - American Lifestyle Blog

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